Journalists during one of the sessions (Photo Courtesy: UNEP)
Environment Journalism is still waiting for its cake in the national media space in India. At a time when the country struggles to balance its developmental aspirations with sustainable environmental management and continues to be one of the most vulnerable spots on the global map fighting the changing dimension of climatic conditions, perhaps time has come for environmental issues to capture the imagination as cricket, crime, Bollywood and politics do in India. A workshop organized jointly by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and UNEP in New Delhi precisely talked about this and highlighted the importance of media in green reporting.
Titled as “United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Workshop on Journalism and the Environment: Reporting Green”, it was led by top environmental experts and policy leaders, focusing on the role of forests in combating climate change, conserving biodiversity and catalyzing social and economic development. Aimed at providing journalists with in-depth knowledge and access to information about pressing environmental issues, the workshop had more than 54 journalists, 48 from India and eight from different South Asian countries brainstorming on environmental threats and challenges.
Explaining the objective of the workshop, Shereen Zorba, Head, Newsdesk, Division of Communication and Public Information, UNEP said, “the idea behind bringing all the experts, leaders from business and government and journalists under one roof is to mainstream environmental issues into everyday reporting and at the same time build communities in practise. And as these happen, the increased information exchange and flow is bound to create that push required for green reporting to become a regular feature of the national media”. Since 2010, over 230 journalists from 38 countries have participated in UNEP's Reporting Green programme, which have previously conducted similar workshops in Bali and Nairobi.
Minister Jairam Ramesh during the innagural session of the Reporting Green
Workshop (Photo Courtesy – UNEP)
“There are lots of small grassroot level changes being adapted and spearheaded by civil societies, self help groups, women activists, all of which needs to be known and replicated elsewhere in the country and this is where media has a critical role to deliver.”
Interacting during the inaugural session of the workshop, Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh spoke on different issues pertaining to environment reporting but he particularly stressed on the increasing tendency of media to focus on negative reporting. He said, “We all realise the cost and threat related to climate change and efforts are being made to mitigate them but while reporting the dangers, the media should also focus and highlight different government and community based initiatives that are being taken for building a sustainable environment strategy.” He added, “there are lots of small grassroot level changes being adapted and spearheaded by civil societies, self help groups, women activists, all of which needs to be known and replicated elsewhere in the country and this is where media has a critical role to deliver.”
Forests being the theme subject of World Environment Day celebration this year, the topics of the workshop revolved primarily around the economics and issues related to the green cover but it was the question and answer sessions after each discussion that opened up the floodgates for lots of environment related topics to be talked and answered about. With gladness, Patricia Okoed Bukumunhe, Chief News Editor of Capital Radio in Uganda said, “The best part of the workshop was that it gave the journalists enough time to ask a variety of questions to experts from different stakeholder groups. Also the electric mix of journalists from regional, national and international press made the process of knowledge exchange truly an enriching one.” Patricia recently won UNEP young journalist award this year for her seven minute outstanding radio feature on political and social impacts of climate change in Uganda.
Hasan Ziyan, a journalist from Maldives National Broadcasting Cooperation also had lots of learning to take back home. “I come from one of the most vulnerable countries of the world but the majority of the people in our country don’t understand the threats and issues of Climate Change. Platforms like this offer such a fantastic opportunity to network with journalists from other countries and the sharing of practises and experiences does a huge difference in moulding our perspective of issues.”
For Vasanthi Hariprakash, a freelance journalist from Bangalore, workshops like these mean a lot. “where else if not in such events, can you get industry practitioners, fellow journalists and experts under one roof talking about one specific issue that you as an individual have chosen to report on? For writing stories, there is not much that a journalist can ask for other than all these”, says Vasanthi.
From spiralling food prices to burning of dry leaves, announcements at Copenhagen to cutting heritage trees for construction of multiple lanes, forest fires to melting glaciers, the exercise travelled through an array of topics and obviously generated a lot of information sharing. Not to mention that not all of intelligent and serious questions put in by the journalists could be answered in black and white but than that’s the reason why it’s time for media to turn the attention on to environment.